Statewatch article: RefNo# 35596
Refugee crisis: latest news from across Europe (32 stories and lots of documents, 24-25.10.15)
Statewatch News Online, October 2015
- EU: Refugee crisis: 25-10-15: Final Statement: Leaders' Meeting on refugee flows along the Western Balkans Route: Leaders’ Statement (pdf):

Greece to build camps to hold 30,000 refugees plus 20,000 in rented homes and UNHCR a further 50,000 further north

- "Under the current circumstances, we will discourage the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region. A policy of waving through refugees without informing a neighbouring country is not acceptable. This should apply to all countries along the route...

- Greece's intention to increase reception capacity to 30.000 places by the end of the year and commit to supporting Greece and UNHCR to provide rent subsidies and host family programmes for at least 20.000 more. Financial support for Greece and the UNHCR is expected. This is an important precondition to make the emergency relocation system work...

- We will work with the UNHCR who has committed to support our efforts in improving our capacities. An additional capacity of 50.000 would allow for a better and more predictable management of the flow....

- We will work with the European Commission and Frontex to step up practical cooperation on readmission with third countries; cooperation will be intensified with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, in particular in the area of returns....

- Upscaling the Poseidon Sea Joint Operation in Greece, in particular Frontex's presence in the Aegean Sea, and strengthening significantly Frontex support to Greece in registering and fingerprinting activities...

- We reconfirm the principle that a country may refuse entry to third country nationals who, when presenting themselves at border crossing points, do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection (in line with international and EU refugee law, subject to a prior non-refoulement and proportionality check)...

It should be noted that there is nothing further on "relocation"

The European Commission has called a meeting - mini-summit- in Brussels of the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia: Leaders' Meeting on the Western Balkans Route: Draft Leaders’ Statement (pdf): Note this "Draft" was circulated on Saturday 24 October the day before the meeting organised by the Commission.

News: Sunday 25 October 2015: Slovenia sees end to EU if leaders fail on migrant plan (Reuters, link): "The European Union is set to deploy more than 400 border guards within a week to help tackle a migrant crisis in the western Balkans, according to an draft statement to be considered later on Sunday by leaders from central and eastern Europe." and EU mini-summit seeks unity in Balkans over migrant crisis (Reuters, link) and Migrant crisis: Emergency talks on Balkans under way (BBC, link)

- Frontex slows down registration procedures in “Hot Spot” Moria, leaving refugees for days in life-threatening conditions (w2eu.net, link):

"Since Frontex has entered the scene, registration processes were dramatically slowed down. Frontex procedures of ‘screening’ individuals takes a long time which has caused great delays and thus created a situation of humanitarian emergency for the hundreds of people waiting outside. The official opening of this hotspot on Lesvos coincided with increased numbers of new arrivals and deteriorating weather conditions...

The ongoing tragedy in the “Hot Spot” and around, mirrors the failure of Europe to protect refugees and the violence of the border regime on which European Migration policies are based. Screening and registration are priority, peoples’ lives are not.

We demand the immediate end of hotspot procedures and the instant withdrawal of Frontex personnel. The EU has to immediately put an end to the slowing-down of registration procedures produced by Frontex which is life-threatening. We denounce the procedure of ‘speeding up returns’ in the strongest possible terms."


and: Moria/Lesbos: Rain-sodden feet, frozen white hands, hypothermic pregnant women and trampled down children (w2eu.net, link):

"The “Hot Spot” of horror is what Moria turned to the last week and since its inauguration when numbers of new arrivals were high and the weather conditions harsh with constant rain falls. The authorities together with the UNHCR and all other involved actors of the humanitarian aid regime failed in protecting hundreds of refugees from what was a predictable catastrophe." [emphasis in original]

- EU: "Returns" package

Under the so-called "hotspot" process refugees are first "nationality screened" (national officials lead by Frontex) and then divided into two groups: a) those to be returned and held in "closed" camps (they have no legal representation or right of appeal) and b) those to be "relocated" within the EU who are "asylum" processed, by EASO and national officials, to be held in "open" camps.

1. European Commission: CONTACT GROUP “Return Directive” (2008/115/EC) 14 October 2014: Preparation of Return Handbook (80 pages, pdf)

2.European Commission: Recommendation: Preparation of Returns Handbook (COM 6250, pdf)

3. European Commission: ANNEX: Return Handbook (116 pages, pdf): "The content of this handbook deals essentially with standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals and is based on EU legal instruments regulating this issue (in particular the Return Directive 2008/115/EC)."

4. European Commission: EU Action Plan on return (COM 453-15,pdf)

5. Addressing the Refugee Crisis in Europe: The Role of EU External Action (Commission and EEAS, pdf)

6. Council conclusions on the future of the return policy (pdf):

"Member States must systematically issue return decisions, take all necessary steps to enforce them and provide adequate resources, including funding and staff, necessary for identifying and returning illegally staying third-country nationals. All measures must be taken to ensure irregular migrants' effective return, including use of detention as a legitimate measure of last resort. In particular, Member States should reinforce their pre-removal detention capacity to ensure the physical availability of irregular migrants for return and take steps to prevent the abuse of rights and procedures."

7. Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (pdf)

8. Council of Europe: Guidelines on forced returns (pdf)

- News (24-25.10.15)

Sweden: Officials called to parliament after fires (The Local.se, link): "The head of the Swedish Security Service, Säpo, and the national police commissioner have been called to appear before a parliamentary committee in the wake of a string of fires at refugee shelters."

How private companies are exploiting the refugee crisis for profit (Independent, link): "Across Europe, some of the most vulnerable people are being seen as a financial opportunity... A grim reality of the current migrant crisis sweeping Europe – a continent that prefers surveillance over humanitarian support – is the growing number of corporations seeing financial opportunity in the most vulnerable people. Refugees become numbers to be processed; the profit motive is paramount in the minds of many multinationals."

Balkan trio threatens to erect migrant fence if Germany closes border (DW, link): "Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania have threatened to erect border fences to stem refugee flows if other EU countries close their borders. Leaders have called for a common European response to the crisis. The leaders of Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia huddled together on Saturday in Sofia to develop a common position on the migrant crisis that has upended the Balkan region, ahead of a mini-EU summit on Sunday. "The three countries, we are standing ready, if Germany and Austria close their borders, not to allow our countries to become buffer zones. We will be ready to close borders," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said after meeting with his Serbian and Romanian counterparts."

Greece: Migrants keep coming despite bad weather (ekathimerini.com, link)

The British family helping refugees in Lesbos (Channel 4 News, 19 October 2015 (video, link)

Operation Sophia - Tackling the refugee crisis with military means (EU ISS, link): "‘...the remit of EU crisis management operations has traditionally been the object of a broad consensus among the main international powers, within the Security Council and beyond. This could be challenged were EU operations to shift to more coercive activities.’"

"Ten-day-old children are getting hypothermia, and we don't have a blanket to give them. We need action" (Sky video, link): "Thousands stranded in the cold in "hellish" conditions are allowed into Croatia as its PM admits barring them is "no solution".

EU: 5 ways the EU migration strategy is unraveling - Another migration summit, but will it do any good? (politico.link): "On Wednesday, 70 asylum-seekers left Italy for Sweden and Finland. A first wave of relocation took place two weeks ago and saw 19 refugees move from Italy to Sweden. Next week, about 30 refugees will move from Greece to Luxembourg, EU officials say. However, only nine countries have told the EU how many migrants they are prepared to take in — a total of just 854." [emphasis added]

EU's migration commissioner rejects review of Schengen (ekathimerini.com, link): "Avramopoulos also played down criticism of Turkey, which has been accused of not doing enough to stop migrants and refugees from crossing into Greece, saying that “we have to recognize the huge burden it has accepted, with 2 million refugees at reception centers and another 2 million roaming around the country without papers.”"

UNHCR concerned at reports of sexual violence against refugee women and children (link): "The UN refugee agency said today it was concerned by "credible testimonies" it has received of sexual violence and abuse against refugee and migrant women and children on the move in Europe and called on authorities to take steps to ensure their protection."

France: Police evacuate last refugee camp in Paris (The LOcal.fr, link): "Police transported the group from the school in a fleet of buses early in the morning, according to AFP journalists at the scene, taking them to hostels and special accommodation around Paris."

Sweden: Another building planned for refugees burns (The Local.se, link): "A building under consideration for refugee housing was destroyed by fire in Eskilstuna on Friday night. Police suspect arson. It was the latest in a string of suspicious fires at prospective refugee centres."

Germany to push for compulsory EU quotas to tackle refugee crisis (Guardian, link) "Merkel is said to want hundreds of thousands of refugees brought directly from Middle East to control numbers and avoid perilous journeys... The plans, being prepared in Berlin and Brussels, are certain to trigger bitter resistance and major clashes within the EU. Berlin backs European commission plans to make the proposed scheme “permanent and binding”. But up to 15 of 28 EU countries are opposed."

Asylum crisis and Western Balkans This WEEK (euobserver, link): "Migration is set to dominate this week following a mini-summit of leaders over the weekend concerning refugee flows in the Western Balkans. “We are struggling with our agencies and with our member states on all fronts. We have people living in forests”, European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels on Friday (23 October). Sunday's mini-summit in Brussels will involve leaders from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.... Only around 80 asylum seekers from Italy out of a target total of 160,000 have so far been relocated. Greece has yet to dispatch any. Member states are also falling to fulfil their pledges of humanitarian aid, asylum relocation spots, and experts for the EU’s border agency Frontex and the European asylum support office (EASO)."

The Secret Mass Graves of the Refugee Crisis - Looking for 243 people who disappeared crossing the Mediterranean, we uncovered the shocking reality of what happens to those who perish at sea (medium.com, link)

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